Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Panzers: part 3: NBFZ

The NBFZ was the first German foray into the world of heavy tanks since WWI( with the exception of the Grosstraktor experimental series of vehicles).  They were, like their British and Russian counterparts,  multi-turreted vehicles. They had one 75 mm gun and two machine guns in separate turrets, the Krupp version also mounting a coaxial 37 mm. Only the prototypes were built, but all were used in the Norwegian campaign.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Panzerkampfwagen II (The panzers)

The first real German combat tank was actually intended to be a reconnaissance tank armed with a 20mm cannon. The Panzer II was a relatively good tank by early 1930s standards, but by 1939 it was outdated. Nevertheless, just like the Panzer I it was forced into a frontline role. After more suitable tanks appeared in quantity, the Panzer II went over to being a reconnaissance vehicle. By the latter half of WWII, it had been increasingly shown that the light tank was obsolete and that armored cars could do the job better, and thus it was removed from service as a gun tank. However, some successful variants were kept in service up until the end of the war.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Panzers: part 1

I am going to write a series of posts about the German Panzers of World War Two, from the lowly Panzer I to the mammoth Panzer VIII Maus.  Our story begins in 1919, in the Palace of Versailles. One of the terms to the treaty that ended the Great War was that Germany could not have tanks. So, in the 1920s, the German Army came up with a loophole in the law. They used cars with cardboard armor, training for a time when they would be able to use real tanks. So, when the Nazis first came to power, one of their first acts after they declared the treaty of Versailles extinct was to send out a proposal for a new tank. The accepted proposal was a light tank armed with two machine-guns. The Panzerkampfwagen( armored vehicle) I had a two man crew and pitifully light armor. As shown by its weak armament, this tank was really only meant to be a training vehicle, but in the Spanish Civil War and the first stages of the Second World War it was forced to serve combat duty. The British and French armor used in the 1940 campaign far outclassed it, and once enough medium tanks were available, it was quickly phazed out of frontline service, although it was retained until about 1943 as a training tank. ( actually, the date is a guess. Also, some variants of Panzer I were used as infantry assault tanks until 1944!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

SMS Frithjof

Today, I will report on the history of the SMS Frithjof, a coast defense ship of the Siegfried class built for the Kaiserlichmarine( a bit unexpected, isn't it?). She was built in 1891-2 and was one of the first modern battleships built for the German Navy, along with her sister ships and the Brandenburg class. She served in the Baltic as a relatively short-ranged vessel. Decommisioned in the fall of 1919, she had served through the First World War seeing no major action. After the war, she was bought by a Hamburg shipowner along with the ships of the Odin class and wass converted to a cargo ship. She was sold for scrap in 1930. Follow the link to see an excellent model of Frithjof's sister ship, Beowulf: .Press up to see some more pictures.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The naval arms race of the 1930s

In 1932, the French Navy built two battlecruisers, Dunkirk and Strasbourg, to counter the German pocket battleship class, the Admiral Scheers, and the arms race had been initiated. The French ships were quickly trumped by an Italian class, the Littorios, to which the French responded with a class of improved and larger Dunkirks, the Richelieu class. While all this was happening, the British struggled to keep up, and while the KGVs( King George the Fifth class) were scheduled to be built with 16 inch guns, to speed up build-time they were only armed with 14-inch. The Germans, meanwhile, had been doing quite well, and had built the Scharnhorst class of 11 inch gunned battlecruisers.  They had also started the Bismark class of true-blue battleships. Obviously, an attentive observer should have seen that this build-up was a direct prelude to war. 

P.S. There was one class that I did not mention that finished off the arms-race. I'll leave you to figure out what it is...